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Friday, May 6, 2016

THE MAJESTIC -- Movie Review by Porfle

With THE MAJESTIC (2001), Frank Darabont dives all the way into the deep end of the nostalgia pool and wallows in cloying sentiment to the point of going under.

Throwing subtlety to the wind, the formerly restrained director indulges an apparent penchant for smarm while his first non-Stephen King effort ultimately morphs from a would-be tearjerker into a heavy-handed message film--a fantasy Hollywood wish-fulfillment tale in which our main character, emitting gleaming waves of Capra-esque integrity while wielding the Constitution like Captain America's shield, bucks the nasty government bad guys to a standing ovation during a HUAC hearing.

Jim Carrey divests himself of his usual mega-farcical persona and goes serious as ambitious hack screenwriter Peter Applegate, who gets accused of being a communist during the red-scare witch hunts of the 50s.

When the drunk and depressed Peter accidentally drives off a bridge and is washed up onto a secluded California beach with no memory of his former life, he makes his way to a small town where he's mistaken for a missing WWII soldier named Luke who's been declared dead after several years.

Martin Landau (ED WOOD, X-FILES: FIGHT THE FUTURE) plays Luke's father Harry Trimble, ecstatic over his son's apparent return and suddenly eager to reopen his derelict movie theater, the Majestic, with Luke's help.

Meanwhile, Peter/Luke becomes a hero and inspiration to the entire town, not to mention Luke's former girlfriend, the lovely Adele (Laurie Holden of Darabont's hit TV series "The Walking Dead").

After suffering many losses during the war, the embittered town's dormant heart is reawakened (symbolized by the Majestic's gala, blazing-neon resurrection) by the presence of their beloved prodigal son. Peter, on the other hand, feels unworthy of such admiration, knowing somehow that he hasn't earned it.

Still, he does his best to live up to everyone's image of him--especially since the love between him and Adele has been rekindled--and finds himself settling into his new life as a truly changed man.

Almost as in a Ray Bradbury short story or an episode of "The Twilight Zone", the town seems to represent Peter's idea of Heaven after his symbolicdeath, and for awhile, we almost expect something supernatural to happen.

Unfortunately, what does eventually transpire--Peter's discovery, arrest, and eventual grilling before a hostile Congressional committee--is disappointingly mundane and contrived in comparison.

To his credit, Carrey is pretty good in this serious role but unfortunately just carries too much baggage to make us forget him as Ace Ventura, Fire Marshall Bill, the Mask, etc.

The film's standout is, unsurprisingly, Martin Landau as Harry, while a radiant Laurie Holden proves to be as much at home on the big screen as she was in "The Walking Dead."

The rest of the film's rather impressive cast includes James Whitmore (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION), David Ogden Stiers, Gerry Black (RE-ANIMATOR, NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION), Bob Balaban, Ron Rifkin, Allen Garfield, Chelcie Ross (THE LAST BOY SCOUT), Jeffrey DeMunn (SHAWSHANK, THE GREEN MILE), Hal Holbrook, and, in the "movie within a movie" scenes, Cliff Curtis (COLLATERAL DAMAGE, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD) and cult icon Bruce Campbell. Darabont also snagged some big name actors and directors to do offscreen voice work.

It wouldn't be so bad if Darabont weren't trying so hard to channel Frank Capra and mold Carrey into Jimmy Stewart for the film's paint-by-numbers resolution, which ultimately attempts to recreate the tearfully joyous finale of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

Like its honey-glazed period atmosphere, THE MAJESTIC's sentiment comes off as too sickly-sweet and unreal to be nearly as truly effective as either Capra's films or Darabont's own earlier triumph.



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